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London home of UK’s first Asian MP Dadabhai Naoroji to get prestigious ‘blue plaque’

The scheme was started in 1866 and is accorded to eminent people. One of the founding members of the Congress, Naoroji lived in the Anerley Park house from 1895 to 1904.

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New Delhi: The London home of Dadabhai Naoroji – the first Asian to be elected a British Member of Parliament – is set to get a ‘blue plaque’, an honour reserved for notable personalities who have lived and worked in London.

The politician’s biographer Dinyar Patel said the plaque would go up later this month at 72, Anerley Park where Naoroji lived from 1895 to 1904.

Author of ‘Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism’, Patel lauded the decade-long attempt by non-governmental charity organisation English Heritage in acquiring the plaque.

The Blue Plaque scheme was established in 1866, now run by English Heritage, and is attached to a building in honour of “notable men and women who have lived or worked” in London.

According to English Heritage, “London’s famous blue plaques link the people of the past with the buildings of the present.” It adds, “(This scheme) is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the world.”

Dadabhai Naoroji was one of the founding members of Indian National Congress and notably the first Asian to be in the British Parliament from 1892-1895 as a Liberal Party candidate. At a time when the British ruled India, Naoroji laid the foundation of India’s freedom movement by establishing India’s first political association, the Bombay Association, in 1852.

Three years after traveling to the UK and joining the first Indian business firm of the mercantile Cama family, Naoroji established his own cotton trading company, Dadabhai Naoroji & Co in 1859.

In 1867, he established the ‘East India Association’ in order to fight discrimination against Asians. The organisation was merged with the Indian National Association – eventually becoming the Indian National Congress in 1885.

Naoroji returned to India in 1874, only to go back to the UK a few years later. An unsuccessful bid to win an election in 1886 as Liberal Party candidate gained him popularity when then British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury said that the English constituency was not ready to elect a “black man”.

During his tenure in Parliament, Naoroji raised issues of Indians and campaigned for India’s independence in the House of Commons among other things. Naoroji lost the subsequent election in 1895.

In 1886, 1893, and 1906, he presided over the annual sessions of the Indian National Congress.

Mahatma Gandhi in a letter to Dadabhai Naoroji wrote, “The Indians look up to you as children to the father. Such is really the feeling here.”

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